Following a recent multi-million pound redevelopment programme in 2006, Kempton Park was transformed into London’s premier racecourse in the heart of leafy South West London. It’s the only right-handed polytrack all-weather surface in the UK with both jump and flat racing held all year round at Kempton.
Kempton was the brainchild of 19th century businessman, S.H. Hyde, who leased the Manor and Park and set up horse racing meetings in July 1878.
Among its raft of popular race meetings is the King George VI Chase: a Grade 1 National Hunt chase which attracts thousands of visitors to Surrey. Past winners of the King George VI chase include Kauto Star and Long Run, so you can guarantee the world’s best chasers will be entered here.
Kempton’s all-weather surface is not thought to be as fast as Lingfield and Wolverhampton as it’s somewhat deeper, but the course is generally fair to all types of runners. It’s also one of the few racecourses in the UK with the capability to host floodlit meetings in the midst of winter.
The flat course at Kempton is a right-handed oval track with two loops. It’s approximately a mile round, with the outer circuit a mile-and-a-quarter. The National Hunt track is flat and triangular, with nine fences along the circuit with three in the home straight.
Although Kempton is generally fair to most runners, the five, nine and 10 furlong sprint races have a very short run-in, which definitely favours those with the stamina to lead from the front.
David Probert says: “Generally speaking, it's a straightforward track. But the five furlong and mile and a quarter races are both run on the tight inside bend, and the impact of the draw is most pronounced there: you definitely benefit from a low draw and being close to the pace, because you're on the turn a fair bit and you need to keep your horse balanced before a home straight of less than two furlongs. It's very difficult to come from off the pace at those two distances.
If you're drawn wide on the inner loop, you need a horse with gate speed in order to get the best break you possibly can. Obviously in novice or non-handicap races there may be inexperienced or slow horses inside you, but in handicaps it's difficult to overcome a wide draw. The best bet then is to try to drop in halfway and hope that they go too quick up front so you can pick them up. It's worth marking up horses that win or run well from wide draws in handicaps at Kempton.
On the outer loop you can normally ride more of a race: you can be drawn outside, drop in, and it seems like you can win from off the pace there at the minute. Whether it's because of the lack of rain and maybe that's making it a little slower, I don't know, but it seems fairer just now. Also on the outer loop, jockeys tend to stay two or three lanes off the inside rail going past the cutaway because it seems a bit quicker further out, and horses just seem to finish a bit better there.
One other thing to note, with Kempton being the only right-handed track is that some horses act better there than at the other all weather courses most likely due to a preference for racing in that direction.
The kickback has improved recently. As with all of the all weather tracks, the more rain we have it tightens up quite well, but sometimes if they harrow it quite deep it can be fairly gruelling in behind. Overall though, it's one of the better tracks for the kickback.”
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